Following your heart can be a crime
A royal wedding means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin's freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself?
Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. she's working as a spy in the court. If caught, she'll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can't help searching for a way to change her ruthless world...and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret.
This dazzling follow-up to The Winner's Curse reveals the high price of dangerous lies and untrustworthy alliances. The truth will come out, and when it does, Kestrel and Arin will learn just how much their crimes will cost them.
The Winner’s Curse trilogy is quickly becoming my undoing! Marie Rutkoski seriously knows how to enthrall her readers. And best yet? The tragic cliffhanger that had me screaming and near tears will be avenged just as soon as I finish writing this here review! By the time it’s posted I’ll already be reading the final book! Phew!
The Winner’s Crime picks up roughly where we left off in The Winner’s Curse. Kestrel has made the ultimate sacrifice; her life and happiness with Arin forsaken if she marries the emperor’s son, Verex, and in return Arin can govern Herran and “report” to the emperor. It all seems like a fair trade, yet no one is happy. Except for the emperor. But as we already know, he’s a bit of a douche, so his happiness doesn’t count.
I will admit, this one was paced rather slow. Though it was never enough that I wanted to put it down. I had heard this one falls in middle book syndrome and it kind of does. But there’s still plenty of exciting moments splashed in between the slower ones. Kestrel is doing everything she possibly can to help Arin without the emperor knowing.
But first, there’s heartbreak and then more heartbreak to be dealt with. Arin doesn’t understand why Kestrel made the choices she did and Kestrel cannot tell Arin the truth. I get it, but then I don’t. Mostly I get it because the emperor has plenty of his own spies lurking about and really no one can be trusted. And sadly, Arin decides to leave Kestrel’s side for a great deal of the book. And in the meantime, Kestrel is playing her own game of spy by working with the Herran representative that’s visiting the emperor’s castle.
This one has far more political intrigue than its predecessor and since the book I read prior to this series was filled with it as well, I was worried I would fall into that same confusing heap I turned into beforehand. But luckily that wasn’t the case. True, all the politics sort of bogs down the story, but it does lead to new happenings and further dangerous plots.
Arin has his own plotting going on as well. But in case that treads into spoiler territory, I’m not going to mention what he was doing while he went away.
Verex was an interesting character to add to the story. I didn’t for a minute think we’d enter love triangle territory. I mean, when Kestrel basically took it upon herself to accept an arranged marriage, I pretty much knew there’d be no love between them. At first, Verex was a bit prickly. He wasn’t an easy guy to like, but eventually he and Kestrel form a friendship of sorts. They don’t love each other, in fact Verex has his own girl he loves, though that girl doesn’t know of his feelings. Verex turns out to be a decent guy and though the marriage will lack love, he thinks he and Kestrel can do right by the country once it’s their time to rule.
I’m always amazed when an author can make me hate a character. It’s seems like it’s easier to love a character than hate one. Sure we all dislike the villain. We never root for him, but to actually loathe one and detest him as soon as he comes up on the page? That takes skills! And Marie definitely has that! I hated the emperor! He was such a…you can basically choose any insulting word here and it will fit his character. I had been hoping that he would see his bloody end in this one, despite whatever fallout that might have for the characters, but alas…all good villains must stick around for the finale it seems!
And what an ending!! Oh my gosh! There were soooo many shocking reveals in this one! I didn’t think my jaw could drop any further after the first few, but man!! And then there’s all the secrets still!! So many things one character knows and not the other…that kind of thing always drives me insane!! Especially those situations that involve a doppelganger and no one knows that it’s not the real person they are dealing with! Thankfully, THAT particular situation doesn’t happen here, but there were still enough things left unsaid between certain characters that had me screaming!! Seriously glad I waited to read this trilogy because now I can happily pick up the final book and read to my heart’s content! I hope!
The Winner’s Crime was a decent follow-up to its predecessor and while it wasn’t the nonstop exciting read I was hoping for, it was still a decently paced read filled with a few heart-racing moments that made up for the areas that were lacking! I cannot wait to see how this thrilling trilogy comes to an end and at the same time fear it, because you never know when an author might decide to break your heart.
Overall Rating 3.75/5 stars—yeah that weird rating again! It was sooo close to a 4 star, but I just remembered being bogged down a bit with the pacing, though it did pick itself back up occasionally.